The Pegasus crisis exposes the political fissures of the Government

The vulnerability in the Government's communications at the highest level made known by the Executive itself and the listening by the secret services to Pere Aragonès and other pro-independence leaders have caused a political earthquake that ended this week with the dismissal of the director of the National Center for Intelligence (CNI).

The Pegasus crisis exposes the political fissures of the Government

The vulnerability in the Government's communications at the highest level made known by the Executive itself and the listening by the secret services to Pere Aragonès and other pro-independence leaders have caused a political earthquake that ended this week with the dismissal of the director of the National Center for Intelligence (CNI). Paz Esteban has thus become the scapegoat that Moncloa has used to allow ERC to collect a political stake and try to rebuild relations with one of its main partners. But at the same time that this was happening, and that the security of the State was opening up a few weeks before our country hosts the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June, the crisis of what is now known as the Pegasus case has revealed other fissures, of a political nature, within an Executive that has entered into convulsion as few times before.

The two figures most affected by what happened, the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, and the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, come out with a quite altered image regarding the profiles they had cultivated to date. The first, whom former President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero came to define a few months ago as "Superbolaños", thus cementing his legend as an effective manager for all kinds of situations, is now suffering the first major blot on his file, given that ensuring the security of communications was, as the Government itself admitted this year in a parliamentary response, the responsibility of the Presidency. The second, with a traditionally good image among the opposition and among the PSOE's most far-right voters, and with an extensive political and legal career behind him, which includes his time in the governments of Felipe González in the 1990s, disrupted part of of that political capital with an oscillating management of the crisis and culminated with an appearance in which he reported, without giving any reason, the change in the Intelligence leadership. In addition to this, and even with the political firewall of the replacement of Esteban served on a platter, the relationship with ERC has suffered again, although within the socialist leadership there is a widespread conviction that the pro-independence republicans will never finish breaking the deck . On the other hand, neither does the relationship with the coalition partner, United We Can, improve, which has taken advantage of the episode to distance itself to the point of asking for Robles' resignation. And last but not least, there is the long shadow of suspicion about Morocco as the author of the wiretaps on Sánchez and the Minister of Defence, which also extended to the head of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and which was attempted , albeit unsuccessfully, to the Minister of Agriculture and former ambassador in Rabat, Luis Planas.

The legend of "Superbolaños" had been brewing for a long time. When Zapatero defined him in this way, last summer's withdrawal from Afghanistan, coordinated by the new minister, was recent. But before, as Secretary General of the Presidency, he had made himself known. For example, when in 2019 he took care of every last detail, and supervised in situ, the exhumation of the remains of Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. An operation that he personally managed and negotiated with the dictator's family. Then, already in 2020, and still as Secretary General of the Presidency, his figure was always present in the great moments, including the pandemic or already in 2021, in one of the great political decisions of the legislature, that of pardoning Oriol Junqueras and the rest of those convicted of sedition by the Supreme Court for the coup in Catalonia in 2017. He had become the man for everything, due to his technical solvency as a jurist (first of his law class at the Complutense University) and for the trust placed in him by Sánchez, who also entrusted him with more political tasks, such as the negotiation with the PP for the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), now resumed.

But Bolaños has suffered the first blemish in that impeccable manager's file. The Minister of the Presidency starred in an unusual press conference last Monday, May 2, given that none of the other governments whose communications have been infected by Pegasus has publicly communicated it, calling State security into question. In addition, the minister has compromised his word that it was the weekend before that press conference when it became known that the cell phones of the president and minister Robles had suffered a Pegasus attack and a huge amount of data had been stolen. documentation, of up to 2.6 gigabytes in one of the intrusions to the telephone of the Chief Executive. However, Moncloa had already received solid indications months ago that Sánchez and Robles' mobile phones had been infected in May and June 2021, although the full report from the National Cryptologic Center did not arrive until that Sunday, May 1. Robles herself, in a parliamentary intervention following the complaints of the independentists about the wiretapping, had presciently said that "those who are now scandalized are going to be in for a surprise."

Apart from that slip in a speech in Congress, the role in this crisis of the Defense Minister, a position she has held since the first Sánchez government in 2018, has several and ambivalent episodes. Immediately the spotlights on her were put on her Ministry, on which the CNI depends, and she immediately put together a rhetorical armor to avoid responsibilities. On May 4, she proudly arrived at the Congressional Defense Commission and in statements to the press she pointed out Bolaños for the first time as being responsible for her, even in a very cryptic manner. "You just have to look at the laws" she said then about who was responsible for the security of the Government's communications, and then, already in the commission, make a closed defense of the still director of the CNI. Barely six days later, Robles herself gave the lace to Paz Esteban, being in charge of communicating her dismissal at a press conference where she was defensive at all times, in which she avoided justifying the reasons for the defenestration of her collaborator. and in which he even denied that it was a dismissal, but rather, he said to the astonishment of locals and strangers, a "substitution." He had managed to get Sánchez to allow him to pilot the relay, naming his number two, Esperanza Casteleiro, as the new head of the CNI, but his image as a member of the Executive respected by his rivals and by center-right voters was seriously affected by a speech in the who, in addition, seemed to overreact in the description of his relationship with Sánchez. “I have the full confidence of the president. I have been working with him for many years. I know, admire and respect him. And that is something that no one is going to be able to take away from me », she affirmed with great emphasis, in what many saw more as a symptom of weakness than strength. This same week the former leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, always on the move and with several antennas on the insides of the Council of Ministers, demanded his dismissal and even raised it as viable in a possible government crisis.

The purples had already asked for his resignation and have not stopped tensing relations with the PSOE, to the point of voting with the nationalists for an investigation commission that the socialists only avoided with the support of PP, Vox and Ciudadanos. However, Yolanda Díaz has avoided making blood with this issue.

Quite the opposite of the president of the United We Can Group, Jaume Asens, who has suggested the idea of ​​a possible "blackmail" to Sánchez, obviously based on the material extracted from his mobile, which would explain the turn taken on the Sahara issue. An issue, the latter, one of those that has most stirred up the coalition partner, affected the Saharawi cause. In addition, Asens asked Bolaños in Congress for a commitment not to use the Pegasus software again and even that the ambassador to Israel be called for consultations, considering that this country, owner of the computer system, could be supervising the use of Pegasus by other nations. The acceptance of the Moroccan postulates on the Sahara through a letter to Mohamed VI is, without a doubt, Sánchez's great swerve in foreign policy. And the Pegasus crisis spreads serious suspicions, as Asens verbalized, about the real reasons for this radical change in relations with the southern neighbor.

The same suspicions and similar mistrust that this crisis arouses in Pere Aragonès. A leader who already knows that he was watched in 2019 when he was Catalan vice president and Sánchez was already in La Moncloa. Both have agreed to a next meeting, but it seems difficult for their relationship to be the same again after being key ERC in the investiture of 2020 and in the approval of the two Budgets approved so far by the Government.

Sánchez affirmed on Thursday that "no turbulence" or "specific crisis" will separate him from his roadmap. But Pegasus has delved into the erosion of his cabinet and the deterioration of the relationship with his partners.


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